Long Days

Over thirteen hours yesterday at work. Over twelve today. (Would have been less, but one of the other letter carriers passed out, so I had to do over two hours of his route.) And the long weekend off (Friday-Saturday-Sunday) I was scheduled for this week was cancelled, so I'll be working those days as well.

On top of all this, I have a head-pounding, great-gruesome-gobs-of-snot-producing cold. (There will be no photos. Say thank you.)

I. Am. Tired.


10,956 days

Hilde (photo ca. 1981 by Gil Gaier) Posted by Picasa

Today marks 30 years since the day I was driving Hilde to one of the local SF club meetings, we got to talking, and we found out we'd both been thinking "What if...?" about the other.

Thank you, Hilde, for thirty years of being companion, lover, wife and soulmate. You changed my life. You made me human. I love you.


We Have Seen The Future, And It Is Slush

Back in 1991, the World Fantasy Convention was held in Tucson, Arizona. I had a little part in that, as editor of an anthology, Copper Star, of Southwestern-themed sf, fantasy & horror that was given out to the membership of the convention (plus extras that were sold to help recoup costs). Not a bad little book, if I say so myself.

I edited Copper Star as an "open market" book, where anyone could submit manuscripts for consideration. ("Open market" vs "invitational" anthologies is a subject for another post.) So I had, as I recall, about 300 stories submitted to go thru and reject, accept, or ask for a rewrite-&-retry.

One of the stories in the slushpile featured a near-future in which the USA's border with Mexico had been lined with a series of highly-automated forts which, whenever Mexicans tried to cross the border into the US, would open up with machine guns, flame throwers, missiles, etc, and slaughter men, women and children alike.

In the story, a female reporter manages to sneak into one of the tightly-sealed forts, where she discovers a human in control of the slaughter-machines. And it turns out that he (and all the other operators in all the other forts) are the worst psychopaths available, drafted from prisons and asylums to perform patriotic (and fun!, by their standards) duties for their country. The fort's operator shows the reporter the facilities, blows some approaching Mexicans into little chunky bits, has rough sex (bordering on rape) with the reporter, and throws her back out of the fort. End of story.

In my rejection letter, I noted (besides the icksome main character) that the story had no explanation why Mexicans would continue to try and cross the border, even in the face of certain death. Civil war? Pandemic disease? The story needed something to justify the actions of the doomed.

So here we are, fifteen years later, and there are people, even Congressmen, seriously suggesting that all 11,000,000 or so illegal immigrants in the US simply be rounded up and thrown back into Mexico. (Never mind that a lot of those eleven million people come from countries other than Mexico.)

What would happen if you actually did that?

Millions of people, suddenly thrust back into Mexican society. Millions of people without jobs. Millions of people now NOT sending substantial portions of the US dollars they earned back home into the Mexican economy.

In that situation, I think the stage will have been set for civil war in Mexico, between the poor and the better-off. In that situation, yeh, you might have human traffic -- refugees fleeing violence, rather than people simply trying to find jobs -- trying to get into the US, even against a heavily-armed border.

But who, besides a psychopath, would think the idea of slaughtering anyone, everyone, who tries to cross the border was morally defensible? Could anyone actually want to see the scenario of that slushpile story made into reality?

Well, pretty damn close. From the comments section of a Defensetech post on "border security theater":
The thing Defense Tech posted just before Bush's speech was about an unmanned gunner thing that mounted on top of a humvee. I think we should have one of those with night vision & infrared & have it be mounted on the top of a 50 foot high metal pole...and have that duplicated. I would have 1 pole per mile...So thats around 3,000 of these. Spend several years to write there software, and have the whole thing automated. So that if an Illegal gets within half a mile of the US border...they get a warning shot fired around 50 feet from them, then have the gun wait like 30 seconds...and if they haven’t begun going backwards (towards Mexico) then another warming shot would be around 15 feet from them...then another 30 seconds...then after that, if they are still walking towards the US border...shoot to kill.

After a week or so, the bodies will be piling up, that will send one hell of a clear message to any illegal citizen...there is no better deterrent then force.

Posted by: Murc at May 15, 2006 11:31 PM

So the good news is that the future will be like science fiction. The bad news is that some people want it to be badly-written science fiction.


A Novel Means of Motivation

In the same breakfast conversation mentioned in the last post, the subject turned to the writing of novels.

I've had a number of short stories published over the years, and wrote a number of movie scripts (tho' none ever resulted in more than a few trips out to Hollywood to meet with producers who never actually put money on the table); the scripts were essentially novellas in length and amount of plot.

But I've never been able to finish any of the novels I've started working on. Somewhere between 50 and 100 pages, I'll almost invariably start muttering to myself, "My god, this sucks. It absolutely, totally sucks," and end up abandoning the project. With a shorter work, I can fool myself long enough to actually finish the piece... and find, surprisingly, that it's not that bad once it's done.

The breakfast conversation led me to muse on what it might take to motivate myself to actually complete a novel (even if it does suck). And the thought that came to mind was a reverse-advance.

Suppose I gave somebody, oh, a hundred bucks. And I told them, "Hold onto this hundred dollars for a year. If I haven't finished a novel by then, you get to keep the money."

And ideally the person you give the money to won't be family or friend, but someone you really, really dislike, and who feels the same way towards you. Because not only will you face the prospect of seeing your hundred bucks end up with someone you loath, but you'll just know that that person, if you don't finish that frigging novel, will wave those bills in your face and say "Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah, you're a fucking lo-o-o-o-oser!"

This... might... actually... work.

And the really tempting thing about this idea is that I can think of several people whose money, if they wanted to write a novel, I would cheerfully hold onto for a year. And I'd probably end up keeping it. Cool!

Expository Gruel

(Not a foodblogging post.)

I had a disappointing experience recently, reading a new book by a writer whose earlier work I had enjoyed a lot.

It was a sequel to an earlier book, and in the new book he needed to restate some of the backstory and world-data that had been presented, pretty successfully, in the first book.

And it... didn't quite work out as well in the second book. Clearly the writer was trying to incorporate the info smoothly into the action of the new book, but...

...but while there weren't any specific passages that I could point to and say, "This is an expository lump," I couldn't help but notice that the writer was inserting backstory information into the new story. It was just obvious enough that it kept me from fully focusing on the new book's story.

I was mentioning this the other day, when Hilde and I went to breakfast with some other people, and described it as "expository gruel".

"Hmmm. I like that," one of the other people at the table said. "That could be a very useful expression."

So, here you go: "Expository gruel", tossed free into the blogosphere for anyone who finds it worth using.


Memorable Moments From Nebula Weekend

So Hilde and I are out in the Mission Palms' upstairs courtyard for the pre-Banquet reception, with bunches of writers and editors sipping drinks and chatting. And we compliment Steve Gould on his spiffy tuxedo with the green-accented bowtie and vest.

"Yes, and look," Steve says, "it matches your wife's dress." Sure enough, it's the same shade as Hilde's green silk.

Then Steve looks at me, in my natural-colored sportcoat & pants and black silk shirt. "But you're not wearing green," he says.

"No, I'm afraid not," I reply.

Steve, after a second or two pause, says, "Well, I guess I'll just have to imagine you wearing a lime-green thong underneath."

I am not sipping a drink at that moment. I am very grateful.

"Ohhhh, that's okay, Steve. You don't have to go to any trouble on my behalf. Really, you don't. Really. Thank you. Please."


Fin-- OWWW! --ished

The housepainting is done.

(Well, almost. Still have to get the last of the painter's tape removed, put stuff away, and move back all the stuff on the front and back porches that was originally up against the walls. Oh, and still have to paint the entrance door to the garage.)

It is... amazing... just how stiff and sore one's hands and wrists will get after days of using brushes and rollers. Excuse me while I go make obeisance to Ibuprofen, the God of Pain Relief.